Except, of course, for those special days when the street-cleaning rules are suspended to mark state, national, cultural or religious holidays. There are about 40 such holidays, and in this diverse city, they run the gamut: Columbus Day. Purim. Christmas. Asian Lunar New Year. The Immaculate Conception.
Now there is a push to add another - Diwali, which marks the start of the new year for many Hindus. The City Council was scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to add Diwali to the list of recognized holidays.
Advocates say the addition of Diwali to the parking calendar would be a milestone for the Indian community in New York. According to 2004 estimates from the Census Bureau, there are just over 213,000 Indians in the city, compared with under 100,000 in 1990.
"It is a direct reflection of the strength and the important contributions of the Indian American community here in New York City," said Councilman John Liu. "It is quintessential New York."
Diwali is the festival of lights, a time of triumph of good over evil. In many Hindu homes, it is common to see small candles or lamps, called diyas, lit and put all over the place. The festivities last for several days, but the bill would suspend parking only on one of them, the day of Lakshmi Puja, considered the holiest time.
The holiday is based on the lunar calendar, and usually falls around October or November. This year, Lakshmi Puja falls on Nov. 1.
The city already recognizes a long list of holy days for other religions. Christian holidays include the Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Christmas, the Solemnity of Ascension and the Immaculate Conception. Jewish holidays include Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Passover and two days of Sukkot, among others. For Muslims, there is Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha.
But this would be the first Hindu holiday to receive alternate-side status. "Our important days should also be recognized because our contribution is not less than anyone else's," said Shiv Dass, a store owner in Queens.
At a council subcommittee hearing last week, Bernard Sullivan, chief of cleaning for the sanitation department, came out against the measure, as the department has on similar requests. He said adding another day to the many holidays the department already recognizes would cut back on the agency's ability to maintain clean streets.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has up to a month to veto the measure or sign it into law.
The push to get recognition for Diwali is classic ethnic politics, said Michael Jones Correa, associate professor of government at Cornell University.
"It's an attempt to gain equal recognition," he said. "It's about not simply the practical aspect but ensuring one has a place at the table."